One of the biggest game changers in business (and life) this century has been the introduction of the internet. The internet created a world of connection, a world where its easier to connect and faster to connect. We’re connected to information and people which has lead to business moving quicker, consumers changing faster, messages spreading easier and business launching in less time than ever before. Today is the age where a new innovative competitor can rise within a year by tapping into the power of these connections, changing the way you do business tomorrow. We have seen this with Amazon, Zappo’s, Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, eBay and many other digital businesses.
The connection economy, succeeded the information era about eight years ago with the invent of social media. Social media showed us it was possible to create and manage relationships online. In fact, it not only showed us we can but it helped us realise that this is something people have wanted for so long. A better way to connect. So its fair to say that any business that has utilised social media to connect with customers has done well recently, but many have been burnt by the social media world. Many business have declined using social media to connect with customers and have focused on providing strong mobile channels to deliver services and improve customer satisfaction. Almost every business will see benefits from digital connections between themselves and their customers and/or employees, but not every business needs to engage with digital in the same way. In essence, the race is not about becoming digital – its about being successful in a digital world.
Succeeding in a digital world is very different to becoming digital. Becoming digital focuses the attention on platforms, systems and infrastructure. While this is important focussing on “succeeding in a digital world” is the mindset that should inform your platform selection, systems and infrastructure. Its the mindset that helps us understand which technologies suit our business best and which connections will help our customers the most.
There are four key elements to digital that I believe are of paramount importance to succeeding in a digital world. These four elements should be at the top of the agenda of business leaders all over the world.
Mobile marketing and service delivery is becoming one of the main solutions to meet market needs in almost every industry. Mobile websites, apps, and responsive web design are making mobile usage experiences more interesting and useful. People are choosing to use mobile devices over using computers to connect to the internet both socially and to conduct research on business, brands and general problem solving.
Innovative mobile solutions could become the competitive edge you need in developed economies and may become your strongest asset in delivering services to emerging economies where mobile usage is high concentrated the cost of smart devices are becoming more affordable thanks to partnerships between telecommunications and technology companies.
The prevalence and usefulness of mobile devices makes it clear that mobile has risen as one of the key focusses for succeeding in a digital world. Mobile is your key enabler of communication, services delivery and product distribution around the world.
Social media changed the way we communicate. Over the last few years business has been learning how to communicate over social media channels to consumers. Often used as a means to leverage relationship dynamics on mass scale, business needs to begin learning the value of creating smaller networks of higher value (especially in business to business arena’s). Social media will always be a great way to connect with customers but generally people don’t want to hear about every business in social circles. Restaurants have great success in social media, as do brands but not everyone wants to hear about the latest Software as a Service offering for the finance industry on Facebook.
Business needs to start asking big questions around socialising their corporate systems and culture by utilising social business (social media tools inside the business) to become a agile in an increasingly fast paced marketplace. Social media posed the question, can we socialise online, the experience over the last 6 years has shown us we can. If we take a step back from social media and look at the idea and the technology behind connecting people to each other online surely we can find better, more meaningful connections to help achieve our business goals. Online groups for faster collaboration, online storage of knowledge surround by social conversation about this knowledge could lead to a wiser organisation, a culture of sharing can help an organisation grow and solve many issues around succession planning in leadership and clear constant communication from leaders to their teams can lead to a more focused business that achieves its goals quicker.
While many people are saying that Big Data is the next big thing I would suggest that its no longer your edge against your competition. Its the foundation to a great digital business model. Data is the stronghold, the biggest asset we have to compete in a digital world. What we can research, capture, analyse and output to drive a better customer understanding or product design becomes the foundation to great business decisions in a digital world.
The data element asks more than just “are you using big data?” It asks, are you an organisation that has a desire to understand your marketplace with every means possible to you? Not every business has the ability or resources to tap into big eta resources, but every single business can benefit from knowing more about their customers, what they are thinking, saying, buying and planning to buy. Data helps us understand this. It helps us deliver better, communicate clearer, understand more and strategise more effectively.
Success in a digital world through data is found in simple strategic insight instead of mass volumes of data output.
If social is the digital foundation that connects people to people then the Internet of Things is the foundation that connects objects to objects. Most definitely the next big thing. The Internet of Things (IoT) will ope the door to smart everything. Smart houses, smart cars, smart watches, smart TV’s and Smart City’s. Think of the potential when every single objects around you could have access to the computing power of the cloud or your smartphone.
Business needs to be thinking now about the way their industry will change as the infrastructures develop to orchestrate connections between objects and objects, objects and people, people and objects and people and people. The potential is radical and will radically change the way we do everything from managing cities, homes, vehicles, time, people, machines and our lives.
Its all or nothing
The clear fact is that this digital world is not something we can ignore. That would be like ignoring the fact that we need to oxygen that trees produce. Its a simple fact of life, we have become more digital and have therefore created our own digital world. We need to think of the future of our business with this in mind.
Focusing on Mobile, Social, Data and IoT will help business leader get a grasp on what it means to succeed in a digital world and what they need to do to enter the race and win. Focusing only on one aspect won’t help you need to approach all four to understand where the opportunities exist and how to leverage them.